When should a dog with a collapsed trachea be put down?

Deciding on the correct time to euthanize a dog with tracheal collapse can be difficult. You want to ensure that your dog experiences the least amount of pain possible while still making sure that they get the most out of life. Different breeds and different ailments require a unique understanding to make sure that you are not putting your dog down prematurely.

Tracheal collapse in dogs

Tracheal collapse is when your dog’s trachea becomes obstructed or damaged in some way. Your dog’s trachea is made up of a collection of rings that are made of cartilage. These rings help hold the airway open so your dog can breathe easily. The trachea is the pathway that air travels from your dog’s mouth to their lungs. An open and undamaged trachea is vital for your dog’s well-being.

Tracheal collapse is when your dog’s airway becomes obstructed or damaged in any way. This can be due to a genetic weakness in your dog’s trachea that makes it fragile. The compromised trachea can become damaged very easily. Excessive force to your dog’s neck can cause the trachea to break and the airway to collapse.

If your dog wears a collar instead of a harness, it may also be at a higher risk for tracheal collapse. Tracheal collapse can be caused by blunt force trauma or an unintended accident that puts pressure on your dog’s neck. Most tracheal collapse in dogs is due to weakened cartilage in the trachea due to genetics.

How long can a dog live with a collapsing trachea?

Your dog’s prognosis is dependant on the cause of the collapsing trachea. Obesity is one of the most common causes, so getting your dog on a healthy, well-managed diet will reduce many of his symptoms, including the cough caused by his collapsing trachea.

Dogs should be walked on a harness to prevent their collar from compressing the trachea and causing a worse cough. Walks should also be changed to early morning and late evening when the weather is cooler.

While these changes can significantly improve your dog’s quality of life, this is a progressive disease. As the symptoms worsen, a veterinarian may suggest surgery to fit a stent, which would allow better support for the trachea and keep the airways open. Unfortunately, stents fail over time, so the operation would need to be repeated a few years later.

When is it time to put down a dog with collapsing trachea?
When is it time to put down a dog with collapsing trachea

When to euthanize a dog with a tracheal collapse

In these situations, it is best to put down a dog with collapsing trachea to minimize the pain that your dog is feeling.

  1. When your dog has trouble eating and drinking
  2. When your dog can no longer exercise and play
  3. When your dog is suffering
  4. When your dog chokes and gasps for breath
  5. When your dog is getting worse
  6. When your dog is not responding to medication
  7. When there is no recovery

How can I help my dog with collapsing trachea?

Depending on the severity of the collapse, a tracheal collapse will most commonly be treated with a cough suppressant. Your dog will get a prescription for a corticosteroid or a bronchodilator that will help ease the pressure in your dog’s airway. These can help ease the irritation in your dog’s throat and will help prevent any future damage to your dog’s trachea.

If these treatments do not work or your dog’s tracheal collapse is more severe, your veterinarian may suggest surgery for your dog. This surgery places prosthetic rings around your dog’s trachea that are meant to help support the airway and keep it open for easy breathing.

The surgery has around a 75% success rate in previously healthy dogs. If your dog is over six years old, it may have a much lower success rate in surgery. This is a highly specialized surgery that will not be done everywhere and may be costly.

In most cases, tracheal collapse can not be prevented. The ailment is based on poor genetics that results in weak cartilage around the trachea. In these situations, the trachea will collapse on its own without much excessive external force.

You can lower the risk of tracheal collapse in your dog by using a body harness instead of a traditional collar. Collars can put excessive pressure on a dog’s neck that could result in damage to the trachea. If you frequently take your dog on walks, a harness will keep them secured to the leash and distribute the pressure through the dog’s abdomen rather than its neck.

If you have smaller dogs, it is also important to supervise them when around bigger dogs or children. The slightest force from a bigger animal can cause an already comprised trachea to collapse.

Can a collar cause a collapsed trachea?

In some cases, a collapsing trachea can be caused by a collar. Dogs who are strong pullers are the most likely to suffer this illness. Using a thin collar will put more pressure on the neck than a thicker padded collar.

If your dog is diagnosed with a collapsing trachea, your vet will recommend switching from a collar and lead to a harness. Since harnesses sit over the chest and back, no pressure is placed on the neck, so they are safer for your dog.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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